Sexual selection is a frame of reference that attempts to explain exaggerated signaling traits, including acoustic signals between male and female animals. Contemporary studies in the field of sexual selection are focused on the evolution of female mating preferences, with particular emphasis being placed on the good genes models of sexual selection. Here I investigate whether sexual selection is in operation in the acoustic communication system of the field cricket, Gryllus bimaculatus. Through development of new methodology I show that female crickets have a distinct and repeatable preference and selectivity for certain male song traits. For sexual selection to operate in acoustic communication systems, males must advertise some aspect of their phenotype that will influence female choice. I demonstrate that the basis for arguments invoking sexual selection for spectral song traits in a sister species, G. campestris, which is that tegmen harp area predicts song frequency, is an invalid assumption for sound production in G. bimaculatus. As a result of this finding I investigated what aspects of male song were condition- and morphology-dependent. Temporal and spectral male song traits did not convey information regarding body condition, body size or the ability to withstand developmental instability (as indicated by fluctuating asymmetry). I was unable to detect handicap sexual selection for spectral characteristics of male song despite repeatable female preference for male song frequency. Furthermore, female preference for spectral bandwidth of male song, thought to be a sexually selected trait, was shown to be governed by preference for frequency and therefore not a distinct preference. The lack of detectable sexual selection, together with observed patterns of phenotypic variation in signals and the equivalent response system, suggest that some of the male song traits function for mate recognition. However, sexual selection for call traits not considered here (e.g. duration of calling) is probable.
Dissertation (MSc (Zoology))--University of Pretoria, 2006.